Thursday 29 November 2012

My Short Sweet Birth Story

wouldn't usually have added my birth story to the plethora of such stories out there, except I thought there might be one or two things in it that might be useful to others.  With my three older children the process through labour and the delivery used to last two to three hours once I had reached hospital and end in panic with the babies’ heartbeats dropping and nurses and doctors rushing around.  This time the baby was born within 20 minutes of us reaching the hospital and with barely any assistance from the midwife until after the birth.

I had been having contractions, whether real, or just very strong Braxton Hicks, throughout the last month of the pregnancy and had finally reconciled myself to the fact that the baby would come on time and I would just have to be patient and get through the last month of my pregnancy one day at a time.  When I woke at 1am ten days before the due date, I felt like I was having mild contractions but thought they weren't painful enough to take seriously.  I managed to go back to sleep and woke up at 3am to find I was having contractions every ten minutes or so.  Again I felt that they were not severe enough to be the real thing, except that the distance between them began to get shorter.  I paced the house for the next hour, until the pain was every five minutes or so.  When I called the hospital to let them know I was coming in, they told me to come in when the pains were three minutes apart and very regular.  I had been told every five minutes by my midwife, so was a little worried and decided to get ready to go in.

Hubby woke up whilst I was on the phone, which I was pleased about, until he got the ironing board out.  First he ironed his thobe whilst I looked on incredulous, and then he started looking for his pants.  I told him to just come as he was.  He then started to iron and fold his turban (amama).  By this time the pains were getting stronger and closer, but still nowhere near as severe as with my other children.  I grabbed my bags and took them downstairs and turned around to find hubby had gone to the bathroom to make wudhu.  I yelled up the stairs to ask if he was coming, which woke my mum-in-law up.  I told her not to worry, I was off to the hospital, which obviously got her very worried.

As I left for the hospital, I started to pray Durood Sharif (invoking Allah’s blessings on the Prophet, peace be upon him) as this is said to lead to blessings being showered on the person reciting:

He who invokes blessings upon Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) once, Allah and His Angels shower seventy blessings upon him.
Transmitted by Ahmad (Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 935)

This is something which I found a reminder of in the book Heaven Under Your Feet, Pregnancy for Muslim Women by Umm Hasan bint Salim (review to follow insh’Allah).  I also started to make dua (supplication) for everyone I knew, as at such times of difficulty dua’s are especially supposed to be accepted.

On reaching the hospital at 5am and explaining to the midwife on duty I was having contractions three minutes apart, I was directed to a labour room.  By this time the pains were about two minutes apart and much more severe, but still not as severe as with my other children.  I was hooked up to a foetal monitor and left in the labour room with hubby reading Surah Yasin from the Quran which is supposed to help in times of difficulty.  I experienced four or five very painful contractions which left me begging for pethedine.  The midwife explained I had dilated five centimetres and needed to dilate five centimetres more, so it could still be some time before the baby was born.  As the midwife sauntered off to get the pethedine, I felt a strange pressure.  With my previous three children, I was so exhausted that I had to be directed by the midwife on when to push, this being the case I didn’t quite recognise the pressure, until I had pushed the baby’s head out and hubby called the midwife back.

With half the baby out, suddenly everyone sat up and started to pay attention.  The midwife asked me what I was trying to do to her as she took hold of the baby and noted the time.  In all I had been at the hospital for twenty minutes. 

Subhan’Allah after months and months of sickness, stomach pains, stiffness, sleeplessness, contractions, headaches and utter misery, I was delirious at the birth of my baby girl.  I could not stop laughing and giggling until about midday.  I was also stunned at how easy the birth had been given my past record.

A number of things come to mind when I think about why this birth experience might have been easier than previous ones.  Two weeks before I had been talking to another mother at my children’s school.  She recommended two things – first to recite “Ya Mujeebo” often which is one of the names of Allah and means “the One who responds to prayers”.  The second thing she told me was to recite the following verse from the Quran 500 times with full belief and trust in Allah (SWT):

Thumma Ussabila Yassarahu
Then He eased the way for him
(Quran 80:20)

Before giving any amount of charity I could afford to the masjid.  She insisted that I would give birth very quickly.  I did so and I truly believe that this verse from the Quran helped me.

The other thing I think helped was reciting Durood Sharif during labour.  Mum-in-law started praying Nawafil Salaah as soon as I left the house and I think this also benefitted me.  I had also asked Allah (SWT) to make my labour and delivery quick and easy in every salah and I believe that Allah (SWT) is the ones who hears us and helps us.

Finally it helped having hubby there.  I had psyched him beforehand so that he knew that he had to be assertive to make sure that I got good care.  I think that standards in maternity care have dropped and that you need someone quite strong and savvy to keep an eye on you and hospital staff to make sure you don’t get ignored.  Mash’Allah, I will never forget what good care he took of me during this period.

Alhamdulillah I feel so blessed with my little girl right now.  I hope that this post is of some benefit to someone else insh’Allah, and I pray Allah (SWT) bestows ease on all sisters who are pregnant right now insh’Allah.

Eye Candy for Me and Some Shopping

I have been trying to be very careful with money recently as I know I can be an impulse buyer.  I have been cooking at home, learning to make do with things that are less than perfect rather than rush to replace them and getting organised with my money in general.

The exception has been buying a new coat.  The one I have is now too small to button up and with the freezing cold morning school run, I needed a new one.  I picked the military style cape coat below from Zara.  I just hope its enough to keep me warm, or I'll have to resort to the duffle coat hubby left behind.

I think it goes well with the bag I bought below from River Island.  I have packed my work bag away for now and this is one is light enough to be kind to my back and shoulders and the chain is long enough to hand off the back of the baby's pram.

Apart from that I have been coveting the earrings Shutterbug Sister's friend bought for her birthday.  Sterling silver set emerald earrings.  I love both the cut and the setting and of course the colour which is my fave.

The other thing I bought is these baskets from Wilkinson's to help me organise the children's room.  

This is the storage they have had in their room for the last few years and it had become a little grotty.  It also doesn't hold their books properly.  

I realised I could not afford a proper bookshelf in their room at the moment, so these baskets made a good strong alternative with each child getting one each for their toys.  I moved all of their reading books downstairs except the Islamic children's book which I kept in their room.  The blue trug in the corner holds a few larger toys and is actually a laundry basket.

The baskets also came in handy to organise their school supplies, so that they can stop fighting over rubbers and pencils when doing their homework.  I have found this way of organising the room means it only takes me about 10 minutes  aday to keep their room clean.

Monday 26 November 2012

Tarbiyah – Correct Upbringing

Something that is very important to me is bringing my children up in the best way possible.  For me this means raising them with good manners and good character and this includes being strong in their faith.  I have tried my best, but I always feel that I could do better.  I suspect this is the case with most parents – they are never satisfied at the job they are doing.

Now that I am at home full time with the children, I had planned to focus on a few habits the children have picked up and review where I had been doing a decent job and where I could improve.  There are a few habits which have been concerning me, some swearing that has crept in and Little Lady’s bad temper being two.

This week my mum said to me that now that I am home, I need to focus on the children’s manners – she said that she didn’t feel that the children had particularly great “tarbiyah” or upbringing and that I needed to rectify this.  At first I felt a little hurt and defensive – after all it is not for lack of trying and there is nothing that is more important to get right, so I could not stomach the idea of doing a bad job.  Then I thought on what she had said.  I believe in taking criticism on board and thinking through what might have prompted it, even if I don’t agree with it.  When it comes from my mum, I am minded even more to reflect on what has been said.

I felt a bit lost as to how I could assess whether I was raising my children well and what else I should be doing or not doing.  I realised that I needed to go back to a definition of what tarbiyah was.  In Arabic tarbiyah means “growth” or “cultivation”, for Muslims this term is used generally to refer to a child’s development and education.  I have come across a number of definitions:

  •  “to take care of that which is necessary for the development of the one being raised… the word Ar Rabb (the Lord) is derived from the word tarbiyah (to nurture)” (source).
  •  “ nurture, rear or to take care of a child from stage to stage until he / she becomes obedient and righteous” (source).
  • “rearing and raising a good righteous Muslim that is sound and complete in all matters such as health, mentality, religion, spirit, ethics, management and creativity” (source).

When I think of what is considered tarbiyah in my parent’s culture, it tends to mean certain things:

  • Being obedient to your parents (and to pretty much anyone else older than you that happens to be around)
  • Speaking good Urdu
  • Being seen and not heard
  • Not getting messy or dirty.
  • Never, ever answering back
  •  And I am not sure what else....

In the weekly halaqah (study circle) I attend, correct tarbiyah of ourself and our children is something that the women have been going over.  The key elements of good tarbiyah and tools for developing it that were discussed are:

1.       Iman or faith – basically meaning that we should teach our children that everything is from Allah (SWT), that He created us and that He fulfils our needs.  We should turn to Him in our difficulty and rely on Him only.

2.       The Sunnah – ensuring that we live by the example of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  This requires us to study how he lived his everyday life, how he conducted his business and relationships and then to emulate this where appropriate.  Very often, we will say that something that is sunnah is not obligatory but just encouraged.  This leaves us the option of dropping the sunnah from our everyday lives.  In reality we should value the sunnah and work hard to make it a reality in our and our children’s lives.

3.       Salaah or prayer – We should encourage our children to join in the five daily prayers so that it becomes a lifelong habit.  This habit also instils discipline in other areas such as cleanliness and timekeeping.  Our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) commanded us to encourage our children to perform their salaah from the age of seven.

4.       Knowledge – we need to educate our children regarding their faith from a young age so that they know what is halal and haram, what is permissible and forbidden and how to conduct our everyday lives in the way that Allah (SWT) has commanded.

5.       Remembrance – This requires us encouraging our children to remember their Creator throughout the day through their “masnoon” prayers such as those for entering the house, entering the bathroom, before eating, before sleeping, on waking etc.  This also requires us to teach our children to use Islamic expressions: saying Bismillah when starting anything new, Alhamdulillah rather than saying OK, Masha'allah when they like something, Astughfiruallah when they don’t. 

6.       Ikhlaq or good character – this focuses on the way we behave towards others.  Islam provides guidance on the best way to behave towards different people – respect for our elders, kindness towards our youngsters, and civility towards our neighbours.  Islam outlines the rights of each family member, of neighbours, of the poor and of the stranger, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.  One element of this is reminding our children that a Muslim is one from whose tongue should feel safe and that we should take care never to engage in backbiting or slander.

7.       Sincerity – everything we do should be to please Allah (SWT).  Our good deeds our rewarded on the basis of our intentions.  Often our children will try to please or impress us.  We should remind our children that everything that they do should be to please Allah (SWT) to gain the true reward.

8.       Calling to Allah – this one might sound strange when exploring raising children, but I included it because I remembered something that my husband said to me “as soon as you stop influencing others, they are influencing you, i.e. you either share with others about Islam and make an impact on those around you or you let society and your environment in general impact on you and shape you”.  I believe we should encourage our children to be proud of their deen and to dress, behave and live accordingly.  In doing so they become a form of dawah for their friends, peers and teachers.  I remember one of my friends telling me that my daughter had asked if she was Muslim and when she had told her no, she thought my daughter had looked so disappointed, Alhamdulillah I realised then that Islam had become the norm and default rather than something which makes them different.

I used the list above to make a more honest assessment of how I am raising my children.  This made it easier to determine what I am doing right and what I could do better rather than just feeling like a failure.

Little Lady is prickly and gets angry quickly.  I realise that this comes from me as I struggled for years to control my temper and the younger children have generally seen me calmer and more in control than my first born might have.  I recognise that she is a natural leader and very spirited, but at the same time she needs to be kinder to her brothers who she gets fed up of and rude to very quickly.  I did not want to make her obedient by breaking her spirit, at the same time I knew I needed to address her rudeness that sometimes comes through.  The baby has been a Godsend in this respect.  She is a daily reminder that Little Lady was once as small and sweet as this and that sweetness is still there.  The baby brings out a loving, sweet and patient side of Little Lady that is a joy for me to see.  I have been praising and rewarding Little Lady every time she is kind and helpful with her little sister to teach her this is the kind of behaviour I want to see more of and I have noticed her trying to get her youngest brother to calm down and behave as well.  I am struggling with reminders to be kind when she loses her temper and this is something we need to work on.  On the other hand she conducts our daily family taleem (Islamic studies) each evening and helps me the most with housework and chores.

There are two sources which I have been using to help me manage this behaviour:
Discipline without Disrespecting a fantastic free e-book by Grandma Jeddah (here)
Parenting Your Strong-Willed Child by Dr Laura Markham (here)

Little Man is like his dad, easy going and kind.  The main thing I have to work on with him is the way he interacts with technology.  If he gets anywhere near our computer or mobile phone, he refuses to listen to anything anyone says.  On being kicked off he gets uncontrollable and rude.  Both gadgets have passwords in our home, but I don’t believe in completely blocking all access to these for the children.  They are allowed to use the computer as a reward on weekends or to do homework, but somehow one person (LL) ends up hogging the computer.  All I have been able to do to manage this is be very strict about computer use and take my phone everywhere with me (Gorgeous has managed to crack the pin code once already after disabling it numerous times).  Little Man is such a demon about phones though, that any cousin, uncle or aunty in the vicinity will get harassed until he gets a turn, which then means that both LL and the phone have to be found because he has run off with it.

Gorgeous is a very physical, rowdy, happy child with no idea of volume control.  He has broken things all over the house, but in truth his jumping on beds, off sofa’s and down stairs doesn’t much bother me.  I love his rowdiness.  On the other hand when he gets upset he jumps up and down and shouts.  His temper disappears as instantly as it appears, but it appears loudly enough to disturb the whole house.  So at the moment we are working on trying to find a different way to express his disquiet when he gets into an argument with his brother or sister.  I have told him I cannot understand him when he is shouting or whingeing, so he has to talk normally.  I have stuck to my guns on this and it has started to have an effect, although I can see this will take some time.  The arrival of the new baby has also exacerbated matters so I will have to be patient.  On the other hand his teacher mentioned his good manners and good behaviour in class, so he is capable of being calm.

In all, this gives me some clear things to work on, rather than some vague sense of things not being right.  At the same time, it helps me to identify some things which might be considered bad manners but which do not bother me as much.  Prime amongst these for my children is asking for things.  Little Man in particular is a foodie in the making and cannot contain himself when we go to visit friends.  On one occasion, he came out and asked the hostess when she was going to go in the kitchen and get the food.  In our (Pakistani) culture traditionally you never ask for food, unless amongst very close friends and only take it when offered, this is probably to avoid embarrassing a host who might not have anything available to fulfil a request.  This particularly stands for children.  So when LL goes to his Nan’s and the first thing he asks is what there is to eat, it looks like he has no manners.  This one doesn’t particularly bother me and I have always encouraged my children to ask and ask again when they want something – a habit encouraged more in the West I think.

Insh’Allah I hope to keep learning more and working hard on this one.  It occurred to me recently, that when I study and work hard to learn and achieve something, I usually find a way to do well why should this be any different?  The guidance is available in the Quran and the Sunnah if we care to take the time to learn and practise insh’Allah.  I believe our children are our greatest legacy and sadaqah jariyah (continuing charity) and I can live with failing in other things but not on doing a bad job of raising my children.

Insh'Allah I would love to hear from others about what has worked for them regarding theirselves, siblings or their own children, particularly practical things we can do or resources that they have found useful.

Picture of the Day - 26.11.12 - Sweet Cheeks

I could watch this little one all day!

Circle of Moms Top 25 European Moms 2012 - Closed!

The recent Circle of Moms Forum competition to find the top 25 blogging mothers in Europe came to a close last week.  I came 46 of 111 with 106 votes which was better than expected.  Just wanted to say thank you very, very much to all those who clicked over to the site and voted.

Friday 16 November 2012

Circle of Moms - Top 25 European Moms 2012

The Circle of Moms Forum is currently running a competition to find the top 25 blogging mothers in Europe.  I have been nominated to be included in the competition.  I just got as far as the e-mail nominating me, so have just updated my profile.  I was surprised to find that I had 25 votes, making me 96 of 103 participants. 

I would love for readers to vote for me.  I have left it a little late, but you can click through on the image below or the button on the sidebar to vote.  You can also vote once every day until November 21st, so again I would love it if you do.

(You might remember I was in the Circle of Moms Top 25Faith Blogs by Moms competition last year.  I didn’t make the top 25, but was more than happy when I came 41st of 294 blogs with 1688 votes).

A Small Exodus and Establishing New Routines

Subhan’Allah, I have had a very busy week and I am just starting to fall into a routine with the baby, who turned one month yesterday (already?!) and the older children.  This means that this has been the first chance for me to sit down and write (albeit with a tray of dishes to take into the kitchen next to me, piles of laundry everywhere I look and the boys wrestling downstairs).

We have spent this week visiting friends and family returning from the hajj pilgrimage and collecting lots of yummy dates and zam zam water from everyone.  Some of the haji’s have then come to visit us to see the baby, there are also visitors still coming to see the baby for the first time.

My mother-in-law returned to Pakistan yesterday after staying with us for the last few months, leading to another stream of visitors.  It was a great help having her here, especially when I was so incapacitated at the end of my pregnancy and she took over cooking.  At the same time, being pregnant and so uncomfortable made me irritable and we managed to wind each other a few times (thankfully we parted on good terms with her intending to come back next summer).

Hubby also left today to spend two months in South Africa (lucky soul!) to visit his sheikh and to engage in dawah work insh’Allah, starting out in Cape Town.  We have been discussing this for a long time and we felt that my maternity leave would be the perfect opportunity for him to go.  I feel that I can manage the four children by myself and I am not fearful of being alone, despite missing him like crazy already.  At the same time, my family are less than five minutes walk away, so I will be spending afternoons with my mum and evenings with my sisters if I need company.  In the past we have had lots of criticism for the short periods of time he has been away, this time round people have pretty much given up having realised that I can cope alone, give hubby my full support and agree with his work and that neither of us listen to people’s opinions much anyway.

At the same, I am happy that this means I will be able to focus on my kids 100% as there are a few things which I need to work on with them – namely Little Lady’s spikiness and messiness, Gorgeous throwing tantrums and various bad habits they have developed (bedtime stretching out way too long, clothes and school equipment getting strewn everywhere).  There is also the constant and endless fighting, whinging and telling tales, but I suspect that this is just normal and that there isn’t really much of a cure for this except time.  I also want to lay down some routines in terms of homework and lessons at home, Islamic studies, tuition and some sports clubs insh’Allah (will mean less time left for fighting with each other at least).

I am hoping to use the next two months as productively as I can insh’Allah, allowing for a small baby and rowdy kids who have been getting away with all sorts for the last few months due to a mum who just could not waddle fast enough to keep up.  Alhamdulillah I feel very much as if Allah (SWT) has given me a chance to concentrate on my children and use this opportunity to work towards raising my children in the best way that I can.  I have been praying that I can raise them with good manners and good charachter, incorporating the sunnan (tradition) of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) into their lives and a love for their faith insh’Allah.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Rainbow Necklace Gift Sets

I was recently having a clear-out of the children's room, when I came across a beaded belt that Little Lady doesn't use.   It consisted of square beads threaded onto and partly wrapped in thick pink string.  I as going to donate to the charity shop, when I wondered if the beads would be any good for children's jewellery.

I let the boys take the belt apart and found that the beads were actually a lot brighter than they looked when they were threaded on the pink string, there were also more colours (beads tray below with blue border).  

I threaded them onto wire (I use fishing rod wire Kooky Little Sister gave me years ago for jewellery wire - it doesn't break and that one roll has lasted me years).  I interspersed the coloured square beads from the belt with doughnut shaped clear glass crystal beads.

I used the same pattern to create matching bracelets using stretchy jewellery making thread.  I hid the knots with the charms below. 

I ended up with two sets like the one below which I gave to Little Lady and one of my little cousins for Eid and which both have been wearing.

I originally thought the square beads were  bit childish, but when I mad the necklace sets, I found I loved the colours and shape of them, so I decided to make a three stranded version for myself.

Not sure if I will wear this or doesn't feel grown up enough for me, but I'm glad I took the belt apart now.

Picture of the Day 08.11.12 - Start the Day with Flowers

I got  nice early morning surprise this week with a delivery of flowers from my colleagues at work.  Was extra surprising because I forgot they exist!!  How quickly I have got used to the changes in my life.  I called my colleagues to thank them and it felt strange speaking to people I have sat next to or spoken with daily for the last few years.

The flowers were very much appreciated as was the lovely little bag they came in which I certainly will find uses for (and the cute bird too).

Saturday 3 November 2012

Eid-ul-Adha 2012/1433: Fun, Bling and Gifts

We opted for a simple Eid this year.  With two new babies and a family wedding in recent months, following on from a summer Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, wedding season in general and my pregnancy, simplicity seemed to be the kindest option.

So this time round I didn't get the decorations out, I didn't do any shopping or put on any henna.  What we did do was gather together at my mum's for good food and good company.  We spent the day laughing, joking, winding each other up, reminiscing and enjoying the two new babies in the family.

Baby's Eid outfit courtesy of her nan who now has an excuse to buy baby girl clothes and has certainly not been holding back!

Shutterbug Sisters Eid gift to me.  You can bet this didn't last long.

The kids got some really cool gifts from their aunts too.  I think I might have to get some of these erasers for myself too.

Little Lady enjoyed laying her gifts out.  She got spoiled rotten this year:

I really like the gumball pendant Kooks got for her below.

In all, I really enjoyed not having to do too much this Eid and just enjoying mum's amazing cooking and the company of my sisters and cousins.

More pics on Kooky 's blogs here and here.